February 2012

Day 11: Gearing up for tomorrow’s “B” game

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a light day of workouts, as only a few pitchers threw live batting practice today because the club is preparing for tomorrow’s “B” game against the Red Sox.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced his starting lineup for the game, which starts at 1 p.m. at Hammond Stadium and is free to public.

The Twins will use nine pitchers in the game, as starting pitchers Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn will be followed by Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship, Jason Bulger, Carlos Gutierrez, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise and Deolis Guerra.

Among position players, the starters are catcher J.R. Towles, first baseman Aaron Bates, second baseman Pedro Florimon, third baseman Ray Chang, shortstop Brian Dozier, left fielder Ben Revere, center fielder Joe Benson, right fielder Rene Tosoni and designated hitter Brian Dinkelman.

The Red Sox plan to use pitchers Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Clayton Mortensen, Jesse Carlson, Tony Pena, Alex Wilson, Will Inman and Justin Thomas, according to Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne.

But the big news today was Justin Morneau clarifying his earlier statements about how if he continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms, he won’t have a career. Here’s the full story on what he said today.

Joe Mauer also talked with the media and said he’s feeling just fine and can’t wait for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Rays. Be on the lookout on Twinsbaseball.com for more on Mauer.

Other notes from today:

- Luke Hughes (shoulder) threw for the first time today, and reported no problems. He says he’ll throw up to 90 feet tomorrow and hopes to take batting practice. He could play in his first Spring Training game next week.

- Gardenhire is waiting to announce who will start the club’s Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Rays. My guess is that it’s Carl Pavano considering Baker and Blackburn throw tomorrow and Francisco Liriano throws on Sunday. It could be Jason Marquis, but I bet Pavano gets the nod.

- Twins GM Terry Ryan on Morneau and Denard Span: “I don’t worry about Justin any more than I worry about Span; they had the same symptoms, but both of them are doing wonderful.”

Photos from today:

Justin Morneau gives some clarification

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twins first baseman Justin Morneau made headlines on Friday, when he held his first media session and said that if his concussion-like symptoms continue there “won’t be a career.”

But Morneau clarified those comments this morning, saying that while those symptoms could end his career, he doesn’t expect them to.

At first, he joked when asked if he heard about the frenzy he created on Twitter, asking, “What’s Twitter?” but then got serious about clarifying his original comments.

“Somebody told me,” Morneau said. “I think there was a lot of positive things we walked about. I was asked a question, I gave an honest answer and that was it.You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if the stuff continues I probably wouldn’t be able to play again. It wasn’t anything other than stating the obvious.

“I also said that I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t anticipate that to happen. That’s something that’s in the back, maybe five percent, of my mind. But you have to, obviously, you have to look at all the options and everything that’s happened. You kind of look to see what you want to be beside a baseball player when you’re done playing. Sometimes you have control when that is and most of the time you don’t. Most of the time guys are still trying to play and either their body doesn’t let them or whatever it is or there’s other guys coming along. One of those things where I was wondering what I would be if I wasn’t a baseball player.”

Morneau has been getting through workouts just fine so far, but said he still hasn’t been told whether he’ll play in the club’s Grapefruit League opener against the Rays on Saturday.

But he had an encouraging sign yesterday, when he hit a homer off left-hander Francisco Liriano during a live batting session.

“I’d never hit a homer in that, especially when they weren’t telling us what was coming,” Morneau said. “I think I’ve done it once when they were still telling us what was coming, but I was more encouraged by the fact that I was able to react when we didn’t know what was coming. That was the positive I’ll take out of that, whether the ball goes over the fence or not. It’s a bonus if it does. But to stand in there and react to a fastball — he was throwing pretty firm — I’ll take the positives out of that, and try to ignore the slider I missed by four feet.”

More to come at Twinsbaseball.com later today.

Day 10: Twins hold day of review

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins reviewed everything they’ve gone over so far in camp today, as they prepare for Thursday’s “B” game against the Red Sox on Thursday at Hammond Stadium.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said right-handers Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker will each throw an inning during that game, but he wouldn’t reveal the other seven pitchers he plans on using. Garenhire said he’ll announce the other pitchers tomorrow, but I expect it to be young pitchers such as Liam Hendriks or non-roster invites.

The Twins also still haven’t announced who will start their Grapefruit League opener against the Rays on Saturday, but Francisco Liriano said he’s slated to pitch Sunday in one of the split-squad games against the Red Sox or Rays.

Liriano threw his third live throwing session — against Justin Morneau, Danny Valencia and Drew Butera — and fared well, as he worked on locating his fastball while mixing in five sliders. But he made a couple of mistakes, as he plunked Valencia on the shin with a fastball and served up a homer to Morneau on another fastball.

But Liriano said he’s feeling great, and is looking forward to making his first start on Sunday.

Other notes from today:

- Joel Zumaya has yet to inform the Twins whether he will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament, according to general manager Terry Ryan: “I have not heard from Joel Zumaya and I don’t know if that will be in the next day or two or in a week,” Ryan said. “I don’t know if his agent will call us or if he’ll call me and give us his decision. But I’m still waiting.”

- Valencia said he was fine after getting hit by Liriano’s errant fastball. He iced his shin after the workout, but appears to be OK.

- Gardenhire on his office at Hammond Stadium: “We’re working on it. We’re going to remodel here pretty soon. We’re going to a smaller brick (laughs). Eventually we’re going to remodel. I’m just happy I’ve got a new chair. I think Boston sold a lot of their stuff so we bought some of it.”

Here are some videos of Liriano throwing a bullpen and Morneau facing Liriano in a live batting practice session.

And here are photos from today’s workout:

Day 9: Zumaya speaks, Twins hold workout

FORT MYERS, Fla. — I was relaxing on the beach on Sanibel Island when I saw the news yesterday that Joel Zumaya tore his ulnar collateral ligament and will be out for the year.

I was enjoying a rare day off during Spring Training, but couldn’t help but feel bad for Zumaya, who has suffered just about every injury imaginable to his right arm.

Zumaya certainly didn’t have to talk to reporters this morning, but stood at his locker and spoke candidly about how he’s considering retiring at just 27 years old because of all the injuries he’s suffered since bursting onto the scene in 2006 with the Tigers.

If he decides to get Tommy John surgery it’ll be his sixth major operation, as he already has had two elbow surgeries, two shoulder surgeries and finger surgery.

He’s proved to be a great guy in the short time he’s been with the Twins, and I wish him nothing but the best no matter what he decides to do.

He was again the major story at camp, but here are some other notes from today:

- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the club will use tomorrow as a review day to go over just everything they’ve done so far in camp. He said he’ll also likely hold a situational game on Wednesday to work on things like relays, baserunning and will even have the pitchers take simulated inning breaks.

- Gardenhire said he’ll also announce tomorrow who will be pitching in Thursday’s “B” game against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium. It should feature plenty of non-roster pitchers.

- Gardenhire added that Ben Revere has noticeably improved his arm strength after working hard this offseason. Revere said he started throwing footballs long distance to help make that improvement.

- The Twins do not plan to follow suit with the Red Sox’s plan of banning beer in the clubhouse: “It’s the Boston Red Sox,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t worry about their policies and they don’t worry about ours I’m sure. Every club has their own policies. We have ours. We’ve been pretty good about things, and if that continues, we’ll be fine. And if it doesn’t continue, then we’ll get pissed off.”

Here are some videos of Joe Mauer and Denard Span taking BP

And here are photos from today’s workout:

Zumaya unsure about future

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A day after learning he tore his ulnar collateral ligament, Twins right-hander Joel Zumaya said he still hadn’t decided whether he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery to continue his career.

Zumaya, 27, has already undergone two elbow surgeries, two shoulder surgeries and finger surgery since making his debut with the Tigers in 2006, and simply isn’t sure if he wants to undergo another one. And even if he does get the surgery, he’s still not sure if he’ll try to make yet another comeback.

“That’s going to be a family decision,” Zumaya said. “Right now, perspective is probably not. I know I’m young, but I’m going to probably be going on six surgeries if I get another one. I’m only 27 years old and I’ve taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, especially my arm, and then rehab — it’s a lot out of you. So I have a little 2-and-a-half-year-old; maybe it’s time to move on. I’m a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing.”

Zumaya, who tore the ligament while throwing a curveball to Drew Butera during his first live throwing session of the spring on Saturday, said he expects to inform Twins general manager Terry Ryan of his decision soon.

“My mind isn’t quite clear yet,” Zumaya said. “I went home, tried to make a decision — I’ve got my family here with me — but it’s a tough decision, so I’m going to go on within the next day or two and make a decision. I spoke to Terry and told him that I’ll probably give him a call within the next 24 hours to determine if I’m going to get cut up or not.”

Zumaya met with Ryan early this morning to talk about his options regarding the surgery. If he decides to have the operation, he could rehab near his home in Orlando or at the club’s Spring Training complex in Fort Myers.

As of now, Zumaya is still on the club’s 40-man roster, as the Twins could opt to release him or place him on the 60-day disabled list. Only $400,000 of the one-year, $850,000 deal he signed this offseason is guaranteed.

Day 7: Zumaya’s injury dampens day

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was supposed to be just another day of full workouts at the Lee County Sports Complex, but it all changed after just 13 pitches from right-hander Joel Zumaya.

Zumaya, throwing live batting practice for the first time this spring, felt discomfort in his right elbow and cut his throwing session short.

He’s scheduled to have an MRI tomorrow morning, and we should get the results by tomorrow night or Monday morning, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

The Twins are hopeful he just broke up some scar tissue — similar to what Joe Nathan experienced last year before he came back even stronger after a stint on the DL — but considering his injury history, there’s a reason to be concerned. Worst-case, Zumaya will need Tommy John surgery, which he’s never had done despite his lengthy list of injuries.

Speaking of Tommy John surgery, Twins GM Terry Ryan shared some positive news about prospect Kyle Gibson, who had the surgery done on Sept. 7. Ryan said he expects Gibson to be back in action this summer, which means he’s recovering at a good rate considering most pitchers need about 12 months to come back after the surgery.

“He’ll pitch this summer,” Ryan said. “I think we anticipate him pitching this summer. In fact, I don’t think, I know. It’s not anything different than the schedule.”

Other notes from today:
– The Twins are trying to get Ben Revere to bunt more this year, as he squared up to bunt just 15 times last year in 481 plate appearances, recording four hits and three sacrifices. He’s been working with Jerry White and Rod Carew to improve his technique.

- Former shortstop Trevor Plouffe is working out with the outfielders, as he prepares to become the club’s fourth outfielder. He’ll also get some work in the infield soon, but the Twins are more worried about getting him comfortable as a corner outfielder.

- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he’s impressed by Danny Valencia so far in camp, as he worked hard to improve his fielding. “He’s way better,” Gardenhire said. “He’s bent over, he’s going to the ball low. As he told me, that was an adjustment. That was a big adjustment for him, because he’s so used to standing up and going after a ball and having to go all the way back down to the ground.”

- Ryan praised both catcher J.R. Towles and infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce, as they were both former top prospects with the Astros and Pirates, respectively, before signing Minor League deals with the Twins this offseason. Towles will get a fair shake to battle Butera for the third catcher spot, while Pearce will get a shot as a utility player who could see time at first base, outfield and third base.

- Alexi Casilla is bothered by a sore calf, but has been participating in the workouts with no problems. Luke Hughes, who has a strained right shoulder, still can’t throw yet, but has been fielding grounders all over the infield.

Here’s video of Zumaya throwing to Justin Morneau shortly before his injury.

And here’s photos from today’s workouts, including of Zumaya before his injury:

Zumaya cuts throwing session short

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twins right-hander Joel Zumaya cut his throwing session short and walked off the field with head trainer Rick McWane on Saturday.

Zumaya, who was throwing a live bullpen session against Drew Butera, appeared to suffer an elbow injury.

Zumaya declined to speak with reporters after meeting with trainers. He’s scheduled to get checked out by team doctors this afternoon.

We’re scheduled to meet with GM Terry Ryan shortly to get an update from the doctors.

Zumaya hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2010, and missed all of last season after undergoing elbow surgery during Spring Training.

UPDATE: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Zumaya is expected to get an MRI tomorrow. We’re meeting with Terry Ryan at 1:30 P.M. ET.

Day 6: First official day of full workouts

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins held their first official workout with position players today with all but one of the 67 players in camp taking part in the action.

Only infielder Michael Holliman — who was out with flu-like symptoms — missed the initial workout. Even infielder Luke Hughes, who had a cortisone shot injected into his strained right shoulder on Wednesday, caught some throws at first base.

But the big news, of course, was the arrival of Justin Morneau and his first day of working out. Morneau got through the workouts just fine, as he fielded ground balls, threw and took batting practice at Hammond Stadium.

He also talked with the media before the workout, and had some very interesting things to say. Here’s the full story here, and the money quote about how if he continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms, he could walk away from baseball:

“I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,” Morneau said. “That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through.

“It’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.”

Other notes from today:
– Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said his opening speech this morning went well. He joked that he was like a preacher out there, and never got fired up. The overall message was that the club needs to focus on what it can control and not worry about outside influences and media expectations.

- Reliever Glen Perkins, who is the club’s new union representative this year, said he was troubled by the fact that Ryan Braun’s initial positive test results were made public before he ultimately appealed and saw his 50-game suspension overturned: “He appealed and won, but he still lost. For me, the shame is the worst part, so it stinks that he has to go through everything as if he got busted; he just doesn’t have to serve the 50-game suspension. I guess the flaw is that somehow, some way it got out. I don’t know who leaked it. He got exonerated from the suspension but he didn’t get cleared.”

- Unlike the early workouts only 15 pitchers threw on Friday, including Francisco Liriano. But several pitchers including Aaron Thompson and Phil Dumatrait threw live batting practice sessions. Some hitters such as Danny Valencia and Drew Butera took swings, but others such as Justin Morneau and Josh Willngham just stood at the plate to work on their timing and to track pitches.

Photos from today’s workout:

Morneau optimistic, but concerned about concussion symptoms

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twins first baseman Justin Morneau talked with reporters this morning, and said that he’s optimistic about staying healthy this year, but also said he’s still concerned about the concussion symptoms that have plagued him for the last two seasons.

Morneau, 30, played in just 69 games last year after battling concussion symptoms and undergoing surgeries on his neck, left wrist, left knee and right foot.

Morneau, who suffered the initial concussion in July 2010, said he hasn’t felt any symptoms since January, and that he hopes to get through the season without any setbacks. But he also was blunt when asked if he’d try to continue playing if the concussion symptoms don’t go away.

“I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,” Morneau said. “That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through.

“It’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.”

But he also expressed optimism for the upcoming season, saying his knee and foot are fully healed and his wrist is at about 100 percent. He still has numbness in his left index finger from the neck surgery, but said it doesn’t affect his swing.

He’s participating in full workouts right from the start but said he’ll take it easy in the early going with the goal of staying healthy entering the season.

“I’m expecting to have a good year,” Morneau said. “I wouldn’t put all the work in. I started the rehab in October and have been going pretty much since then, everything with the goal of having a healthy season and doing what I’m capable of doing. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that was a possibility or the case. I wouldn’t have put all that work in. Obviously I’ve done everything I can, so I’ll see how it goes, but I’m here to help this team win and to drive in runs and hit fourth and do the things I feel like I’m capable of doing.”

Check back at Twinsbaseball.com later today for the full story.

Day 5: Position players report

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Workouts started early and players quickly filed out of the clubhouse before noon, as today was the club’s annual golf tournament.

The big news was the arrival of first baseman Justin Morneau. But Morneau only showed up to drop his stuff off in his locker, and said he plans to meet with the media tomorrow.

With Morneau in camp, only Oswaldo Arcia and Pedro Florimon have yet to show before tomorrow’s first official workout for position players. It was wrongly assumed by reporters that Florimon was already in camp, but general manager Terry Ryan said he expects him to be here in time for tomorrow’s 8:30 a.m. meeting.

In other news, Tsuyoshi Nishioka met with the media and had some interesting things to say about the upcoming season. And Ryan indicated that Nishioka could see some time at third base this spring to prepare for a utility role. For more details on that, check out the notebook that will be officially posted later today.

The Twins also added catching prospect Danny Rams to big league camp, giving them nine catchers on the roster. Ryan said the move was done because there are so many pitchers in camp.

Ryan also said the club scheduled two more “B” games. The Twins, who already scheduled one with the Red Sox for 1 p.m. ET on March 1 at Hammond Stadium, added another against the Red Sox at 10 a.m. on March 7 at Hammond Stadium and one against the Pirates at 10 a.m. on March 10 in Bradenton.

Other notes from today:

- Luke Hughes continues to progress after getting a cortisone shot in his right shoulder. He’ll be out of action for a more days before working out with the team next week.

- Ron Gardenhire worked with Alexi Casilla and Brian Dozier on the practice field today. Says he likes Dozier’s defense but he’s trying to help him slow down a little bit.

- Ryan Doumit is expected to catch fly balls in the outfield and play some first base during drills this spring. Joe Mauer is also scheduled to see some practice time at first.

- Gardenhire had this to say about his former Mets teammate Gary Carter, who passed away last week after a bout with brain cancer: “He played like a little kid. He enjoyed the heck out of it. He was a hustle guy, always hustled. Liked the cameras. He liked the cameras. He was perfect for New York. He had that big smile on his face. We used to tease him all the time. He did the milk commercials. It was perfect for him. He should be doing milk commercials. Dipping an Oreo cookie into it, too. Great guy. Treated everybody like he knew you forever. Treated me like a king. Didn’t matter if you were No. 1 on the team or No. 25 on the team. He treated everybody the same and always had a smile. Very intense when he caught. Wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the other team. Defended his pitchers and defended his team and also was a pretty good player.”

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